Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Prairie-Rock Garden Update and Amsonia!

The oldest garden on our property is the garden I call the 'Prairie Garden', tho one might consider it a rock garden as well I suppose. Two years ago I claimed this particular spot for an oasis in a tick infested wild field. The little gazebo was built along with a patio then I set about thinking about a garden. Because one side slopes quite a bit and I had lots of rocks at my other house, I decided to build a small rock wall and back fill the area for a garden. These pictures were taken in the morning when the eastern sun was blocked by the shade trees but generally this garden gets full sun from late morning to the evening. I surmised tough plants that would make a big impact in this area were needed. I like native plant communities so I tried to pick prairie plants to grow in this garden. Finally, I can see the results of my hard work and my intuition paid off in my plant selections. This is a view from about 75 feet away. The house is actually over 100 feet away so individual plants would get lost. Therefore this garden has a limited palette of plants and they are primarily massed. Let's take a closer look.
When you garden on a hill is makes sense to put taller plants in the lower area tiering to shorter plants as the hill rises. This is so you can see the whole garden and so that you don't feel like you are tipsy. Balance comes into play so that you can see the entire garden from any spot you chose to stand on so you must not only think of tall plants in the lower part of the hill but also you need to tier that part of the hill from a lower spot and not just from a high spot. The gazebo is the high spot in this garden and there are two sections of the garden. This northern side is complete. The southern side is not anywhere close. It was dug up for the electrical lines and will soon be dug up again for another line. My poor plants that I jumped the gun and planted on that side struggle. Looking to the south toward the gazebo we have wild phlox (it was not planted by my hands but I let it grow), catmint, baptisias behind the wild phlox, and amsonias behind the catmint. Groupings in this garden are no less than five to a group. Amsonias and baptisias are spaced at least four feet on center to allow for mature growth of these very large plants.
There is still space between the amsonias but remember these plants are only a few years old. They will continue to grow and soon this space will be gone. Catmint quickly fills in its allotted space with no problem.

The amsonia is glorious this year. The blue is rather subtle but really makes an impact. In the background I planted some pink irises. The pink and blue are a great combination.
The blue of the baptisias play off from the blue of the amsonias. I am okay with all this blue but in hindsight a contrasting color might have stood out a bit more.
More of the amsonias. Behind the amsonias are very tall plants and a native prairie plant called helianthus. These are small sunflowers and this cultivar is 'Maximillian'. The little cushion of it behind the amsonia will continue to grow to about four feet high (amsonia gets to about three feet) and will bloom beautiful yellow sunflowers in the late summer. I also planted Tatarian asters, cutleaf coneflowers, and 'Northwinds' switch grass alongside the helianthus. All are considered prairie plants.
Here is a close up of the wild phlox. I did not plant this but it is perfect there. Behind and to the left of the phlox is 'Autumn Joy' sedum. So far the deer have not bothered this sedum in the two years it has been here. They did taste it but mainly leave it alone. The sedum was spectacular last summer and as a bonus the flowers dry on the plant and last all winter.
The pink irises like this spot. I just moved them here not too long ago but they still decided to bloom for me-that doesn't often happen after a transplant. Gladiolus and asters are in the background while 'Stella de oro' daylilies await their turn in front of the irises to shine with their yellow blooms.
Changing gears a bit we jump over the southern part of this large garden on the other side of the gazebo. There is not much planted here because like I said, it has to be dug up for electrical lines. I did plop in some catmint and geraniums as well as 'Glow Girl' spirea. The textures and colors are nice together.
I cannot say enough about 'Glow Girl' spiraea. Proven Winners sent me two plants two years ago and I planted them in this large garden. It is the only chartreuse in the garden but it holds its own. It is a rather slow growing spiraea and it appears it will stay smaller than most spiraea. The blooms stand out quite a bit and the plant is tough as nails. I am really loving this spiraea.

in the garden....

Also in this garden:  cup plant, tatarian asters, native butterfly weed (grown on its own), liatris, salvias, daylilies, coneflowers, Stokes aster, sedums, gladiolus and a few others that escape me right now. All tough plants. 

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. Love your little prairie garden. Perfect plants. I can just imagine you sitting there under your gazebo watching the butterflies flit across the plants and having a beverage. I find that just reading about all the hard work you have been doing wears me out. ha... All the while I am sitting here thinking I will plant more shrubs and trees as the hard work is not so appealing as it used to be. Love watching all your work and challenges. Things are turning out beautifully. I forget if your house is done??? Are you there all the time now? That is also encouraging I would think. Once you are out there all the time you will find more and more projects. :)

    1. Good morning Lisa! Yes, we moved in last fall and are getting settled in. Not so many new projects just more of keeping up the old ones, watering and weeding.My, weeding is kicking my butt! Not enough hours in the days but I have hope that once things are established I'll get a handle on it all. Thanks for asking and have a great day!

  2. How exciting to see the first garden coming along nicely! I hope to get to Tiger Way soon so will see it with my own eyes once again....

  3. Amsonia! I must look for some! And I'm not sure I've seen those pale pink iris before....

  4. Lovely! That is a good tip about planting taller plants lower down on the incline. The gazebo looks like a nice place to read a book.

  5. Those are all plants that do well in our dry conditions. Hardy indeed. Looking nice as they fill in. Really like the wild phlox.